Ethanol leaders say the blend wall is cracking and initial approval of E-15 is expected "soon."
"We've been told that the E-15 testing is complete on model year 2007 and newer vehicles," said Greg Krissek, with ICM Inc. in Colwich, the country's leading designer of ethanol plants. "EPA has started posting those findings to its E-15 website and we are hopeful that in the next couple of weeks they will announce that E-15 has been approved for those cars."
Krissek said testing is on schedule for completion in November on model years 2001 through 2006, and a waiver for the use of E-15 in those engines is expected by the end of the year.
2007 and newer cars make up about 18% of the total car fleet, and 2001 through 2006 cars are another 36%.
So far, all tests have been positive with no problems in any of the hundreds of vehicles that have been tested.
The ethanol industry is already producing all the ethanol that can be used at a 10 percent blend rate and the industry needs approval of higher blends before production can increase.
Once the waiver is granted, several steps still remain before E-15 goes into wide use in the fuel industry.
"At the time the waiver is announced, we expect a proposed rule-making on what pump labels should look like," Krissek said. "That will take require a comment period, probably 30 to 60 days. After that, there will be the fuel registration process. That's not terribly difficulty but it will require complete of health effects testing."